I was stunned at the news of Eddie Van Halen's passing, even though I don't know him and have never met him, it was like losing a member of the family.

As a kid I started as a Kiss and AC/DC fan and I was trying to learn their songs on the guitar along with many other artists. Then one of my best friends, Alan Debolt, got the first Van Halen record and said, "Tommy, you have to hear this."

Alan and I were both huge music fans and we were starting to get some decent vinyl collections going but when he put the needle on the record I just couldn't believe what I was hearing.

Alan knew I was a guitar player trying to get better but when he played Eddie Van Halen performing "Eruption" for me, I was stunned. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. It was mind blowing and humbling all at the same time. I thought about not playing guitar anymore but soon that just turned into inspiration to want to learn more...and learn from the master, Eddie Van Halen.

As cassettes were becoming more and more popular and I began driving, almost always if you got in my car, Van Halen was in the tape deck.

Another one of my best friends, Curt Brendel, we wore out my Van Halen II cassette. Our jam was "D.O.A." but the whole album is stellar.

I was lucky enough to see them with David Lee Roth, Sammy Hagar and even Gary Cherone and I loved every show I saw.

I own the entire Van Halen library and those first five albums I have listened to more than any other band, including Kiss and AC/DC.

There is just so much fire in Eddie's playing. He changed how people played the guitar forever. When I was growing up, everyone wanted to be like Eddie Van Halen especially if there were a guitar player.

Not only was Eddie one of the most influential and innovative guitarists of all time, his tone from his guitar to his amp...that is what all guitar players wanted, even to this day. He built his own guitars and re-worked his Marshall amp and it was amazing the sounds he came up. Not to mention he did this all while writing amazing songs.

I never got to personally thank Eddie for all the joy he has brought me my entire life, but THANK YOU EDDIE! It has been an amazing journey as you and Van Halen have been the soundtrack to my life.

May you rest in peace.

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